Vegan at the Bend: A road trip to North Carolina offers a ton of vegan-friendly meals

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By: Rama Ganesan

Rama Ganesan/Vegan at the Bend

We drove down to Durham, N.C. to attend our son’s commencement ceremony last weekend. Some of our meals were standard vegan fare that we can get at chain restaurants, but others were meals that I specifically searched for online.

Happycow.net and vegguide.org were two of the more useful sites, although you do have to check to make sure that the reviews are current and if the places are still open.

Breakfast on Saturday morning was at Foster’s Market, a restaurant and farmer’s market. We ate plates of fruit and veggie wraps, but sorry, no pictures here as we were hosted by one of our son’s professors!

Lunch was at the Au Bon Pain on Duke’s campus, where we ate custom salads with beans, nuts, and beets.

The veggie burger option at this chain uses the Morningstar brand, and as the manager noted it is not vegan but vegetarian (it might be a good idea to suggest to the chain they to switch to a vegan burger like Boca or Amy’s). 

At the afternoon teatime, the coffee house Cocoa Cinnamon was the choice as it carries goods from the award-winning bakery Joie de Vegan.

They were running out of vegan items by the time we arrived, but we were fortunate to get the chocolate cake with our soy chai and signature cacao drink.

Dinner was at the famed Vimala’s Curryblossom Café in Chapel Hill. Vegan dishes were plentiful, flavorful and substantial.

The proprietor, Vimala, came to our table and served us hot chappathis right off the griddle and extra servings of lentils. The vegan kofta curry was my favorite dish.

Sunday was busy with little time between the commencement ceremony at Durham Bulls Athletic Park followed by the degree awards at Cameron Stadium.

Duke provided us with boxed lunches; yes, there were “vegan” boxes, with hummus rolls, pasta salad and a slice of fruit bread.

As our son was packing up his dorm room, we decided to go for drinks at Six Plates near the west campus. The drinks were both astoundingly good — daiquiri and margarita. But I regret my choice to eat French fries — the portion was large and it ruined my appetite for dinner!

On our way back on Monday, we drove through Blacksburg, Va., where we used to live. The restaurant scene had changed a lot, but we enjoyed coffee and chai at Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea.

A lifestyle center that had opened up since we left has The Chocolate Spike, a chocolatier with a whole row of vegan chocolates! We ended up buying one of each and needless to say, there was none left by the time we reached South Bend.

Charleston, W. Va., was the place for our dinner Monday. We ate Tofu Tacos on the front deck of Tricky Fish, an “urban beach bar,” just after a rainstorm.

This was a short but fun-filled trip, and it was exciting to try out vegan dishes in new places! Durham and Chapel Hill are ahead of Michiana in terms of vegan restaurants, but it might be interesting to see how things develop over the next few years. 

For more tips and tales of dining vegan in Michiana from Rama Ganesan and her fellow meatless maven Crystal Hallwood, subscribe to the Vegan at the Bend email newsletter.
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